Family traditions provide the extra sprinkling of pixie dust for Christmas even if the family cannot all be together.
Some families are strewn all over the country or stationed in other parts of the world with the military, but remembering or even making those traditions can bring back the warm, fuzzy memories of Christmases past.
My husband and I were reared in families that adhered to those traditions. His grandmother always made gumbo for Christmas with a side of potato salad. My grandmother did ham with brown sugar, pineapple and cherries on top, along with ambrosia. Of course, she had to do a separate fruit salad for me sans the coconut. I never did and still don't like coconut.
My family and extended family always had a snack supper on Christmas Eve after Holy Communion service at the Methodist church. Allen's family, complete with his uncles and their families, gathered at his grandmother's on Christmas Day for a feast. His grandmother, who was reared in Opelousas, La., made the great gumbo.
In our 29 years of marriage, we have entwined these traditions with our own, which are still evolving. A grandbaby changes everything. Lilly's excitement over everything Christmas is infectious.
We are having a snack supper tonight after church, then Elyssa and Allen and I get to put together Lilly's presents. What would Christmas Eve be without struggling with that one toy that just won't operate like it's supposed to? I remember Allen being not so joyful putting together a Barbie airplane for Elyssa. Tonight, we get to put together a Thomas the Train set.
Yes, Christmas is all
about traditions, both old and new ones. We are having gumbo for Christmas, potato salad and Elyssa's favorite, pistachio salad. Allen's dad will join us, making four generations for Christmas dinner.
Today, I thought I would share some of our traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas recipes with readers, sort of "from my house to yours" Christmas eve gift. By the way, Elyssa, now 22, woke up this morning saying, "Christmas Eve gift." The first one in the house to say it gets to open a present today. Don't tell her, but we always let her be the first. Soon it will be Lilly's turn.
For our snack supper, I make crab puffs, something I've done for more than 30 years.
ANDREA'S CRAB PUFFS
Tea party puffs:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 pound crab meat, picked through
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1- 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon minced onion
Combine butter and boiling water in medium-size saucepan and heat over high heat until butter melts. Turn heat to low, add salt and flour stirring vigorously until mixture leaves the sides of the pan in a smooth, compact ball, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with spoon until mixture has a satin-like sheen.
Drop by teaspoonfuls, 1- 1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets, shaping each into a mound that points up in the center. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 20-25 minutes without opening the oven door. Puffs should be puffed and golden. Remove with a spatula to wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, combine crab meat, softened cream cheese, horseradish and onion in mixing bowl. Mix until blended. Slice tops off tea party puffs, fill and replace tops. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 3 to 3- 1/2 dozen.
1 small package pistachio instant pudding, dry
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 (9-ounce) carton whipped topping
1 (16-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup Maraschino cherries, chopped
Combine all ingredients. Chill serves about 8. I always have to double this recipe, because Elyssa will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a snack, too.
For her gumbo, Allen's grandmother always chopped all the ingredients before starting. The recipe below is written just like she wrote it down. It does not give many measurements, but leaves that up to a person's taste. We use these ingredients as a basis and put in the amounts we like. Don't be confused. This recipe is a guide, just add your own amounts. Remember, a roux is equal parts oil and flour.
ELSIE PITTMAN'S GUMBO
3 tablespoons Crisco shortening
3 tablespoons flour
Green onions, chopped; use plenty (she did not use white onions)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Smoked sausage (about 1 pound)
Garlic cloves; we use about 2-3, minced
2-3 pounds boiled shrimp, reserve water in which shrimp were boiled
1 pound crab claw meat, picked through
1 small can tomato paste
Cover shrimp with water and add Tony Chachere's seasoning or crab boil. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat immediately. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside.
Cook smoked sausage in shortening until heated thoroughly. Remove sausage with slotted spoon. Add 3 tablespoons flour to pot sausage was cooked in. Stir until roux becomes a milk chocolate color. Be sure to stir roux constantly so it does not burn. If it burns, toss it out and start over.
Add onions, bell pepper, garlic cloves and okra to roux , again stirring constantly. Add shrimp stock or water in which shrimp were boiled. Stir. Add tomato paste and stir well. Heat mixture. Add shrimp and crab meat and heat thoroughly.
Andrea's note: We add Tony Chachere's seasoning or crab boil to water in which shrimp is cooked. This adds a nice spice without being too spicy. My father-in-law doesn't like gumbo too hot.
Turkey stew found
Anna Berry of Long Beach can make use of that leftover Christmas turkey in turkey Brunswick, a recipe that she lost in Hurricane Katrina. She requested this recipe in the Dec. 17 column. A colleague combed The Sun Herald files to find it for her in time for the holidays.
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter/margarine
2 cans (13-3/4 ounces each) chicken broth
2- 1/2 cups cooked leftover turkey pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1- 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crumbled
Dash of pepper
1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
In large kettle or Dutch oven, cook garlic and onion in hot butter until limp, about 8 minutes. Remove kettle from heat. Stir in all but 3 tablespoons of 1 can of broth. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons chicken broth over turkey pieces. Combine the1/4 cup flour, salt, rosemary and pepper in paper or plastic bag. Add turkey and shake until each piece is coated. Quickly stir into onion-broth mixture.
Gradually add remaining can of broth, stirring constantly. Return kettle to heat and cook over low heat, stirring, until mixture bubbles and begins to thicken. Add tomatoes, breaking up with fork if necessary. Add carrots. Bring to boiling, remaining reduce heat, cover and simmer about 20 minutes.
Add peas and cook, uncovered 20 minutes or until liquid is slightly reduced.
New Year's drinks
Send me your favorite non-alcoholic specialty drinks or punch recipes for those New Year's Eve parties. Non-alcoholic specialty drinks or punches taste great and keep all your guests safe. Merry Christmas to all my readers. May you remember traditions of the past and blend them with present ones.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at email@example.com and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.